Although I am on vacation (technically), I cannot keep myself away from recent CEO events. I have been following the Whole Foods' CEO John Mackey episode with great interest. As you probably heard by now, he was discovered to have been posting on a discussion board using a fake name. For eight years, no less! I went to the web site to see the latest press release. I found this:
AUSTIN, Texas (July 17, 2007). Whole Foods Market today released the following statement from Co-founder, Chairman and CEO, John Mackey: "I sincerely apologize to all Whole Foods Market stakeholders for my error in judgment in anonymously participating on online financial message boards. I am very sorry and I ask our stakeholders to please forgive me."
The press release is all of 50 words. I don't recall reading something this short from a corporation.
I firmly believe that Mackey's behavior was an error in judgment as he said. Transparency is the watchword for CEOs and public companies. What was he thinking? I know that he is described as quirky but at some point in those eight years, he must have wondered whether his "fun" postings crossed the line. My sense is that a new CEO will be announced in due time. Its just too close for comfort.
I believe that this is another example of CEO-itis. Mackey lost track of how his behavior impacts the reputation of Whole Foods. Like other CEOs, he thought he was invincible. Even as a founder, he must recognize that each employee's conduct reflects the ethical standards and moral underpinnings of the company. My sense is that if another officer of the company had been posting anonymously, they would have been shown the door. Reputation of the CEO and other senior officers matters and need to be taken ever so seriously.
CEO John Mackey, Whole Foods, transparency, apology, reputation matters, ethical conduct, moral underpinnings